How Do You Articulate Business Strategy?

One of my current research projects is to define how EA teams capture and express business strategy. Early in the process I am finding a lot of variation in how organizations articulate strategy. In my preliminary interviews I have heard three basic definitions of strategy:

  1. Strategy as goal articulation. Business executives often use the terms strategy, goal, and objective interchangeably. For example - Goal: “Our strategy is to become a significant player the widget market.” Or objective: “Our strategy is to become the largest supplier of widgets in the southeast.”
  2. Strategy as the approach to a goal. For example: “We will grow our share of the widget market organically by adding hard-to-replicate proprietary add-ons to our current slate of widgets as well as to widgets from non-proprietary sources.” This definition aligns pretty well with the business motivation model strategy definition developed by the Business Rules Group and accepted as an OMG standard. You can see their model here: http://www.businessrulesgroup.org/bmm.shtml.
  3. Strategy as the entire strategic landscape: vision, goal, approach, objective, and initiative. For example: “Our strategy is to execute six basic cross-organizational initiatives (spelled out in detail) that support our goal to become a major player in the widget market. Each initiative will drive expansion in a different customer segment to help us grow to be the largest supplier of widgets in the southeast. We will encourage product innovation to create proprietary widget add-ons to our current products that are hard to replicate. These add-ons will create long-term customer lock-in.”   

 How do you define business strategy? How do you articulate it? How do you capture it? How do you use it? I would love to hear your thoughts on illuminating business strategy.

As part of this research, Forrester is conducting a survey on how IT organizations align their own strategies with those of the business. You can participate in the survey here: http://www.forrester.com/june2010strategysurvey.

Comments

Strategy is the how to achieve the goal strictly speaking

Strategy is the "how to" achieve goals (2), strictly speaking. In practice though it is defined more like goals, that is 1. Good points.
What can we do? Realistically, we should choose the 3rd approach, that is describe both the goal and the solution to get there.

In this animated presentation the first picture describes how initiatives (in the middle) implement the strategies guiding the Enterprise transformation from the current to the target state implementing the goals in Vision.
@ http://sites.google.com/site/enterprisearchitecturematter/gods-ea-framework

How Do You Articulate Business Strategy?

I always learned that Strategy has five different forms:

- Strategy as a plan : A direction guide course of action
- Strategy as a pattern : Consistent behaviour over time
- Strategy as a position : Locating particular products in particular markets
- Strategy as a perspective : An company's fundamental way of doing things
e.g. 'the Forrester way'
- Strategy as a ploy : An manoeuvre to outwit the competition. e.g. buy land next to
the competition to stop them expanding.

For each of these there are advantages and disadvantages so you need to use more than one to gain a full perspective of you business.

In my personal opinion I think the overall strategy needs to set direction, focus effort, define the organisation, and provide consistency. If you can do this you are on to a winner :-)

I prefer to think about "motivation"

I've grown fond of the Business Motivation Model you mention and have been using it in a simpler form than described in their documents.

It does a good job of separating the Ends (vision, goals, objectives) from the Means (mission, strategies, and tactics).

So, using this model, I can engage the C-level executives in workshops on the Ends and engage the next level down in workshops on the Means.

I sometimes still call the whole things (Ends and Means) the "Business Strategy" (big "S" to distinguish from the little "s" strategies in the Means) because that is what the executives call it.

I wrote more on this approach here:

http://bit.ly/dl3nPe

Dave Baker

PS Your third option, which includes the initiatives, feels more like the overall Strategic Plan or Blueprint, or perhaps the Roadmap (if the initiatives get prioritized and their delivery sequenced)

I agree with this post. What

I agree with this post. What David calls big S Strategy I refer to as a strategic plan where small s strategy is a means as defined in BMM.

The first time I read beautifully simple terms of the BMM ('ends' and 'means') was a genius moment for me. I just went "wow, why didn't I think of that" ha ha

Balanced Scorecard

Would you agree to capture the ends and means in a business balanced scorecard format so that IT could create an IT strategy once again the ends and means in an IT balanced scorecard format? Your thoughts are appreciated. Thank you.

Balanced Scorecard

Bala - a Balanced Scorecard approach is a reasonable way to categorize and track the ENDS - objectives, measures, targets, but it kind of jumps over the MEANS and gets right down to "initiatives". I believe there is a lot of work to get from an expression of the ENDS to the defined initiatives (which is the resulting program of work needed to realize the ENDS). I believe an organization benefits from working through the details of the MEANS - little "s" strategies, tactics, and their impact on existing products, operations, organization, and technology).

Take a look at Kaplan and Norton's followup to the Balance Scorecard - "Strategy Maps". Strategy Maps are their attemp to capture and document the detail behind the MEANS - strategies, impacted processes, investments in people, technology, etc.

Dave Baker

Business Strategy

Dave,
Very good point. And do you agree that after fine tuning the "Means" by focusing on the small "s" strategies, etc., one would eventually identify a set of initiatives as a first iteration/attempt at an enterprise level, which would eventually be elaborated by the business units (including IT) through cascaded balanced scorecards and other pertinent elaboration techniques to identify concrete projects/programs.

For example in the case of IT, IT would take the overall business balanced scorecard, create an aligned IT Balanced Scorecard, and eventually use Enterprise Architecture methodology to create a roadmap with concrete projects/programs.

Thank you for your input in advance.

Balanced Scorecard

Bala, yes, I agree. I want to make sure you do not over simplify the process though. The Balanced Scorecard is the easy part, working through the "Means" is the tough part. And a detailed Means will get you enough detail to identify, size, and develop costs for the resulting EA roadmap.

Dave

Balanced Scorecard's Role

Dave and Bala -
As usual, I agree with Dave. While I like the balanced scorecard approach in general, it can be pretty difficult to implement across multiple organizations with different roles. Everyone likes setting goals - it is easy to do and in theory is easy to measure. But to Dave's point, getting the means defined is much harder as it begins to constrain action or funnel it in a partituclar direction. For example: A corporate goal of cutting operating expense 10% is easy to cascade down the organization to every budet owner. But without setting strategy (means) about how to achieve the goal, organizations will take different approaches. One organization might cut staff significantly by heavily automating thier processes - but this increases IT' budget which is not in alignment with the goal. Adding the means of "without increasing expense in other departments", or "without increasing IT expense" would constrain the approach and ensure that the goal's intent is met. Of course it general takes a number of "strategies" to make this work across the entire organization.

check out mitzberg's book strategy safari

hi all,

henry mintzberg's book strategy safari is the best compilation of every type of strategy you might want to find. (http://www.amazon.com/Strategy-Safari-Through-Strategic-Management/dp/07...)

in mitzberg's book, all the above comments, and ideas would fall into the "design" school of strategy -- which is one of 7 schools, if memory serves.

Walter Kiechel's book (which I've yet to read, but I did hear him speak on it), the Lords of Strategy documents the people behind the idea of strategy, and how the concept of corporate strategy evolved (from a modern, corporate standpoint). check out: (http://www.amazon.com/Lords-Strategy-Intellectual-History-Corporate/dp/1...)

check 'em out.

best
john

Start by knowing your audience and your objectives

I don't feel that it is Business Architecture's place to create strategy, not unless specifically told to by the C-Suite. Business Architecture is about understanding strategy and facilitating the execution of said strategy.

In facilitating the execution, strategy would be articulated differently depending on the audience. There is no opportunity for Business Architecture to create a master plan that everyone else is then required to go and learn. First of all, the plan wouldn't be 'correct', and second of all the effort required by everyone to learn it would not be proportional to the value extracted on the back end.

For Business Architecture to add value, they need to speak (and draw) operationally for the operations department, technically for the tech dept, optimalised for optimisation teams, market for marketing, etc.

The C-Suite divines the forest.
The Business Architects tell the story of the forest to all the trees (and animals, and plants, etc).
The Business Architects will need to learn all the languages if they are expected to communicate. They will need all sorts of models and methods depending on the audience.

If one wants to develop strategy, I was trained (for a semester) with the following text as a guide
http://books.google.com/books?id=Lrq1YSFyky8C&printsec=frontcover&dq=str...
It was a fairly concise integration of a large amount of research and theory.

My previous statements about the C-Suite being the source of strategy is a violation of what I learned in the course, but I feel it stands per the context of this blog.